Sean Beckwith: Midvalley’s main attraction
July 24, 2018
I messed my knee up playing intramural basketball in high school. I remember banging it on the wall behind the basket, falling to the ground and then looking at a portion of my tibia that was bulging against my skin right below my knee. There was a level of "That's not good" going through my mind that I've never experienced before or since.
I'd have to imagine that's the exact feeling that went through the minds of the two 20-somethings that started the Lake Christine Fire on July 3. As soon as that blaze flared up, things got as real as anything in "Bad Boys" and "Bad Boys 2."
It's been bizarro summer; ski seasons are naturally affected by weather but to have one exert its futility on the summer is surreal. Fire danger was high in past years; however, July rains arrived to quench people's thirst for relief. Working at the copy desk, filing, reading and placing wildfire stories felt like being that scientist in a natural disaster movie who figured out early on that three hurricanes were going to combine to create Storm Voltron.
All it takes is a couple of dolts shooting tracers, or ill-informed tourists setting campfires, or a perfectly placed lightning strike, or any number of sparks to turn the Fourth of July into "Dante's Peak." You're trying to figure out a place to watch the parade, laser-light or drone show and in an instant you're looking for the cat while simultaneously combing through your belongings to try to figure out what is worthy of a spot in your car.
Getting that call and driving from cul de sac to cul de sac to save people's livelihoods and, in some cases, lives is some real-life hero s—. From far away, it's easy to look at a picture of a man in a boat rescuing people off roofs and still be in awe of the situation. It's another thing to open Twitter in Denver while celebrating the holiday and see the mountain across the highway from Whole Foods hot enough to melt T-1000. Your thoughts immediately go to "Who do I know that lives there and how do I verify their safety?"
To have tragedy play out on the Fourth of July like an arson-twisted "Jaws" was frightening. Small children playing in a fountain juxtaposed with a panic-laden stream of cars, trailers, police cruisers and fire engines flowing away from danger is an image fit for the silver screen. I'm not trying to attain movie rights; I'm trying to put things into blockbuster-portion perspective.
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The work done by first responders and firefighters cannot be overstated enough. Running slurry drops via plane, water drops with a helicopter, bulldozing containment lines, putting out hot spots and then having to answer questions from reporter Scott Condon — that's a true champion of the people. Thankfully the intricacies of life during and after the fire are at the forefront of the newspaper instead of more stories of loss and heartbreak.
Unfortunately, there is no gas tank in the shark's mouth to shoot, or zombie haven to reach to put this incident collectively behind the residents of the Roaring Fork Valley. That barren, charred mountainscape will loom over this area for years to come, more than a reminder of Mother Nature's power. It's going to take an unfathomable amount of man hours to assure rivers and homes are as protected as possible from mudslides, revitalize vegetation and all the other aspects you don't think about with a cloud of smoke hanging over river floats and golf rounds.
Concerning yourself with Tweedledee and Tweedledum for an "Infinity Wars"-sized mistake like they're going to be able to bring Spider-Man and Star Lord back from the dead is only going to bring additional stress. They're not villains trying to burn down half the valley in order to make way for future population. The courts will make sure this incident has a lasting impact on their lives, even though it probably already has.
There are obviously big-picture questions to ponder as it pertains to drought, climate change and water rights but, for right now, the daily forecast holds the valley hostage and the advanced firefighting team in place. The amount of gratitude the entire community has for everyone battling the fire is more than anything imaginable, the wave of fear the fire can cause more real, the impact more lasting and the yearn for precipitation more desperate.
Let's hope for future summers, the main attraction sticks to movie screens.
Sean Beckwith is a copy editor for The Aspen Times. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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